Pi Beta Phi land swap approved

Final agreement still pending; some Arrowmont buildings could stay
Sep. 11, 2013 @ 11:57 PM

The Sevier County Board of Education approved a tentative plan Monday that would allow Pi Beta Phi Elementary to swap land with the developer looking to purchase adjoining property where the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts now sits.

Arrowmont is owned by the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women; the county school takes its name from that organization. The fraternity rented its property to Arrowmont and also rented some of the elementary school property to the school system.

Now, developer Bob Bentz is looking to buy the fraternity’s property and is trying to work with the tenants as well before competing the transaction.

For the elementary school, that means it would take ownership of the bridge leading from Cherokee Orchard Road onto its campus, along with 15,890 square feet in surrounding land, and another 9,860 square feet on the other side of the school. In exchange, it would give up 25,750 square feet of property along the north side of the school, nearest to the Parkway.

Karen King, finance director for the school system, said Bentz has indicated he doesn’t want to serve as a landlord to the schools. He hopes to use the property he’s acquiring for a retail complex.

The transaction is dependent on Bentz reaching a final agreement with the fraternity. Currently they are in mediation with local officials and representatives of Arrowmont. Representatives of the school of arts and crafts have indicated they want it to stay in downtown Gatlinburg. Bentz has said he would consider allowing some of the buildings to remain, but he has his own plans for the property.

King said they have indicated they could announce results from the mediation in January.

The board approved the agreement with little discussion.

Also Monday, the board:

  • Selected John McClure as its new chairman, replacing Becky Barnes, and selected Mike Oakley as vice chair
  • Agreed to join a national purchasing cooperative

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com